Contests and Winners / Travel Advisor Inspiration Month Stories

Inspirational stories from YOU, travel agents!

Supplier: WheelsUpNetwork.com
Location: Other

Thank you so much for taking the time and sharing your special travel memories with us!

Our Travel Judges from Viva Wyndham Resorts, Sandos Hotels & Resorts, Costa Rica Dream Adventures and Palladium Hotel Group will select the winners and we will announce all 7 of them on June 12!

Good Luck!

 

SANDOS HOTELS & RESORTS

Heidi Verschaeve, Director of Business Development at Sandos Hotels & Resorts

Every year we host our international Sandos sales meeting where our teams from Europe, South America, Mexico and North America come together at one of our Sandos Hotels & Resorts. It was a hot August evening and we had feasted on the most fabulous farewell dinner at Sandos Cancun. We decided to go have a drink together at our ocean front bar to enjoy the nightly breeze and each other´s company before everyone had to depart to their respective countries. We talked, we laughed, we had a great time and then it was time to get some sleep. We almost reached the lobby entrance when we see the security guard running after us, waving and “whisper-screaming” at us …. Not sure what happened we stop and when he reaches us, he says: “We are going to release turtles in 2 minutes, I just wanted to make sure that you had a chance to be a part of the turtle release tonight.” Needless to say we ran back to the beach to assist our team in releasing the baby turtles into the sea and needless to say there was not a dry eye in the house. I’m forever thankful to this security guard at Sandos Cancun for chasing after us 🙂

 

Anne Palardy, BDM Québec, Ottawa, Maritimes

Every year we have our annual north American sales meeting in one of our resort in Mexico This is a precious moment that we are always looking forward as all the BDM’s and our director meet all together.

In January 2019 we were invited to the Sandos Finisterra in Los Cabos for our sales meeting. As we were working all together in one of the business room at the hotel one of my colleague mentioned that whales were passing by as they are migrated from January to April. Immediately everyone stops working and tries to have a look at the ocean to see those whales going by . As you can see this picture was taken and I am the person standing on the chair trying to see the whales. This was a memorable team moment and it made my boss laugh very much ( Heidi Verschaeve;))

Anne-Palardy

 

Whale watching in the middle of our Sandos sales meeting at the Sandos Finisterra in Los Cabos.

 

Anne-Palardy-2

The best sales team ever :))
– Photo taken at the bar The Office Jan 2019- Los Cabos

I am grateful to be part of the Sandos family and one of the BDM of this wonderful team.

 

Wendy Jensen Sales Midwest / Ventas Midwest

#1 In July 2018 I took my than 11 year old son Max to Sandos Caracol Eco Resort. Just mom and son. When we arrived in our room, that Heidi was so generous to upgrade us to, I found written on my bed in colorful stones: “Happy 1st Anniversary with Sandos”. It meant a great deal to me to be so appreciated and remembered.

 

Wendy-Jensen

 

#2 On the same trip, Max & I were walking up to the lobby to meet Esteban (sales manager of the resort) and Max was in front of me on the path and a Spider Monkey stepped out from in between the bushes directly in front of him, walking upright. Max was immediately startled and said “What the Ffffff!” He didn’t say the word of course, but it was right on the tip of his tongue. I said to him “Honey, if you would have said it, I wouldn’t even have been mad because that was quite startling”. I tell this story to every travel agent that will listen.

#3 In October 2018 my 80 year old father came down with my for a conference I was attending and we stayed at Sandos Caracol Eco Resort. I went to his room one morning in the Select Club section to go to breakfast. I found him entertaining 2 Spider Monkeys on his balcony with absolute awe. He never before had been to a resort quite like Sandos Caracol Eco and he absolutely fell in love with it.

 

Veronica Petcoff, BDM Ontario and Western Canada

In June of 2013 I was hosting my first FAM, and I was fortunate enough to be experiencing the Sandos Finisterra in Los Cabos for the first time also. Taken aback by the utter beauty of this part of Mexico, and the fantastic hotel, I was in heaven. I thought ‘it doesn’t get any better than this, does it?’. We had an exciting itinerary to follow which included glass blowing our own wine glasses at a local factory, ATVing in the desert, sunset catamaran to see the famous Cabo arch, and finished our days with oceanfront dinners listening to the waves crash as we laughed and toasted to the breathtaking sunsets. On the final night, there was a change of plans – which usually makes me feel a little uneasy…. Our sales manager on site pulled me aside and said “we will be having our cocktail reception on the beach tonight, not at the Whale Watchers bar.” When I asked why the change, he replied, “you’ll see.” I was confused, but I trusted him. After dinner, he shows up with a couple of bottles of champagne, glasses and we followed him to the beach. We popped the bottles, and just a few moments later the biggest, brightest full moon I have ever seen starts to peek over the horizon. The entire ocean lit up like a Christmas tree and we got to witness the first Super Moon of 2013. It got higher, and higher. Brighter and brighter. We all danced, drank champagne, and watched this magical event happen – right on the beach of Sandos Finisterra. To this day, it is one of my most favourite memories.

VIVA WYNDHAM RESORTS

Juan Carlos Ruiz BDM, Canada

Our trip to Viva Wyndham Azteca and Maya in 2018

My daughter is a big fun of Viva Wyndham , she has been since we remember , as little she would love to go and spend every day once or twice in the trapeze.
She will never miss the shows. She will drag us from our room or made us quick our dinner to be on time with good seats . She learned most of the shows , especially in the Viva Wyndham Dominicus Beach in La Romana, DR.
But about 2 years ago she wanted to invite her friend Bia with us to Mexico, we had plans to go to Viva Wyndham Maya and Azteca.
The issue for us was , she has severe allergies to nuts , especially peanuts. But we knew Viva has menus for people with allergies; but one thing is knowing, another is actually testing it with a minor who is not your kid. But we took her, I was confident and we left, with my wife carrying an EpiPen 24/7 and a list of what she was allergic to.
Now, when we arrived at the resort, the first thing was that Guest Service knew already and briefed us on how it was going to work out, where to find food and to always ask the server.
Obviously, the Asian Restaurant was out of the question but we managed to book our restaurants.
Happily, even at the buffet there was food for her and we told our server and they were very accommodating and explained to her what she could or could not eat.
But when we went to the specialty restaurants is when we were completely flabbergasted . Every time we went to a restaurant they greeted us and immediately asked who was Bia, then they explained the options to her, including dessert for her and she was happy that she could have ice cream or gelato. And that experience was repeated every evening at our reservations in all the restaurants both in Maya and Azteca that we visited.
She was so confident that she never carried her EpiPen anymore.
She had a great time with my daughter and she even found craft work (she loves art) she did at the pool every morning.
They went parasailing, we went shopping to Playa del Carmen , 5th Ave .
We went snorkelling , etc.
She was so happy and confident to go alone with my daughter and she would pick her own food, make her own selectins at the buffet and she had such a great time.
Now, after this experience I always, with 100% confidence, tell our clients and agents to come and visit any of our resorts and to just always tell your agent when you book, as we did and tell our Guest Service when they arrive.

She told her family and now her family is planning a trip to one of our resort.

COSTA RICA DREAM ADVENTURES

Arthur Salus, CEO of Cost Rica Dream Adventures

Back in the ‘90s my main business was government travel. A close friend invited me on a fishing expedition to Costa Rica. My passion for sportfishing had taken me to many places in search of the best spot. On my first visit to Costa Rica I caught a Marlin at the very first try in the deep Pacific Ocean of Guanacaste and I knew this was a sign. I came back for more and then explored Costa Rica’s rainforests and beaches at least two times each year with my family and friends. From all those family vacations, I noticed this country made my wife and children feel confident to walk around and explore. They were happy and Costa Rica made them feel at home. Its pristine national parks, beaches, wildlife, perfect weather and the possibility of fishing all year round, made Costa Rica the ideal destination.

Eager to share these experiences with others, I decided to create a destination travel company that provides a distinctive vacation to help people reconnect with each other and nature. And that became a reality in 1999. That soon became Costa Rica Dream Adventures (CRDA). There is nothing more important to us, than plan the perfect vacation that you are wishing for. Pura Vida!

Arthur-Costa-Rica-Trip-Manuel-Antonio[2]

Arthur-Photos-CR-Fishing[2]

 

 

Denise Schaefer from Plaza Travel

One of my magical moments I had personally was on my trip to Africa. I’ve been a few times, but on my last trip to Zimbabwe we did walk with the elephants which was pure magic. Getting up close and touching them and walking thru the jungle with them and then getting to feed them was something I’ll never forget. They are so human like with how they take care of their babies and families. It’s really something to see. When we returned Sylvester the cheetah was there who was rescued as a baby and now lives at the lodge. We got to pet him and take pictures. Seeing him up close was beyond anything I’ve ever done. Africa captures your soul and I certainly leave a piece of mind behind each time I go.
As Will Smith once said “It feels like God visits everywhere else, but lives in Africa.”

One of the amazing experiences I created for a client was when they took the family and kids to Australia for Christmas and New Years. When they got to their resort in Tasmania on Christmas Eve I had arranged for a tree to be put in their room, decorated and gifts under the tree for the kids. They were beyond surprised and the kids thrilled. New Years they were back in Sydney and it was their twins birthday so again I had the concierge go shopping and buy them gifts and had them delivered to their suite with a cake and sang to them. Private guides, planes, top suites and multiple surprises along the way they said it was the best trip they have ever taken!

 

 

Judi Pearson from SellOffVacations

A Wedding gone wrong

I had one of my regular clients come to me, asking me about joining into another agencies Wedding Group. She said that the plane was full and the agent could not help her. The client had 10 pax who wanted to go to this Wedding in Jamaica. The group of 20 had an evening flight and my group; I got them a great deal on the following morning flight.
The morning after my groups’ arrival there was an urgent face book message from my client… Apparently, the Bride & Grooms agent did not book the symbolic Wedding & the resort had no knowledge of a wedding happening. The Bride could not get in contact with the agency or her agent, left messages. My client asked if there was anything, I could do. I reached out to the resort, got in touch with the Wedding co coordinator. I told her the problem, also letting her know that the Bride & Groom were not in my group, but my group was also part of the Wedding. I asked re: a symbolic date, questioned if they had a spot, the resort did squeeze the wedding in. I made an appointment for the Bride & Groom to meet with the coordinator. Asked my client to notify the B&G.
Due to their numbers with both groups, I got a free wedding package. The bride’s parents were extremely thankful, messaged me to tell me I saved the Wedding, thanked me & realized it was not my position to do. Upon their arrival back home, they reached out & tipped me generously.
The other agent never returned an email or call to the Bride or Groom or their parents at destination. : ( Nor did she follow up with her clients. I always reach out to my client, its great customer service.
Although the booking was not mine, I am sure anyone of my fellow agents would have done the same. I was just pleased that I secured a symbolic date on short notice. I know have a group of new clients!

 

 

Ashley Makokis  from Ohana Vacations

Travel Story #1

Last year I had the opportunity to work with an incredible family planning their first out of country family vacation. There was 14 of them in total, so a small family group of 5 rooms.
After weeks of going through multiple resorts in detail, reviewing with my clients what each resort offered for pools, beach access, kids clubs, evening entertainment as well as restaurants that could accommodate each families dietary needs, the family group decided on staying at Sandos Caracol. Being a larger family group with age ranges from 6 years old to 75 years old the main goal of the family was to have a resort that would feature enough amenities to keep everyone busy for the full 10 days, and a resort that has something for everyone. I must admit the water park seemed to have also peaked the interest mostly of the dads!

Sandos Caracol was amazing to work with, the amount of detailed emails between myself and the resort ensuring to the best of our ability that the need’s of each family member was met. From rooms being located on the same floor, if not side by side to special decorations welcoming them to the resort and reassurance that the restaurants had advance notice of allergies. I was able to make pre arrival dining reservations for El Tempo for the Teppanyaki as a birthday celebration for of the grandparents!

Before my clients left I had special cards in Spanish made for the family that they would bring to restaurants each night to assist the wait staff in knowing the dietary allergies. I dropped off mini resort care packages filled with the Sandos Luggage tags, Pool toys and a few colouring sheets for the little ones to do on the flight. Working with WestJet we ensured family seating for each member of the family, as well as a resort map.

With the amazing help of the Sandos Caracol team we were able to ensure a seamless vacation to this amazing family and I couldn’t have done it without them! Thank you Sandos!!

 

Memorable Story #2 – Wedding Group Hiccups!

At the beginning of 2019 I was working with a wedding group of 60 passengers, all coming from different departure gates into Cancun, and of course guests of all ages and nationalities.

Upon arrival to Cancun I received a frantic phone call from the bride… there luggage never arrived… including her wedding dress! The bride had told me she filled out the paperwork at the airport for missing luggage and they were on there way to the hotel, with only carry on luggage. After a few phone calls I was able to locate her missing luggage and ensure it was being sent on the next flight out. I also contacted the hotel and advised them of the clients missing luggage and requested for a care package to be made up and left in the room for them upon arrival with hygiene items to get them through until there luggage arrived as well as pool toys for there young children. The resort was super helpful and my bride was so happy to arrive and find care packages in her room.

A few hours later, I received another phone call from the bride that 2 of her guests had not arrived at the resort. It was well after 8:00pm in Cancun, and her Aunt and Uncle had not arrived. (There arrival was scheduled for 4:00pm) The bride was concerned as the Aunt and Uncle did not speak English well, nor did they speak Spanish, that they may have gotten lost in the airport or possibly were not sure on how to get to the resort transportation busses due to the language barrier. Reassuring the bride that I would take care of this, I promptly contacted the in destination rep and was able to have them go to the airport and see if they could locate the missing Aunt and Uncle. After what felt like forever I received a phone call back from the destination rep that he had indeed found the Aunt and Uncle and was able to put them on the bus over to the resort.

A few weeks after the couple returned, I received an amazing card from my bride, thanking me for ensuring her and all her guests had a flawless destination wedding, from handling her very sick mother in laws room accommodations and ensuring a wheelchair was available at the resort and extra airport assistance to locating her missing family in the airport and locating her missing luggage.

I know each and everyone one of us would do our absolute best when it comes to our clients, being able to go above and beyond with the help of our resort and airline teams allows us to show our clients that no matter what, we have got there back!

 

 

Kelly Cavanagh from Marlin Travel Swift Current

Story #1

Many years ago I had a client book with her daughter to do a very adventurous tour through Africa. The client was probably late 40’s early 50’s and because of her age and the demanding style of the trip the tour operator required her to fill out a special medical form. They wanted to make sure she understood the physical demands and confirm she knew what she was signing up for. I didn’t really think anything of it, but she was completely offended. You see, she had grown up on and still lived and worked on a farm in Saskatchewan. She was tough as nails. Likely physically and mentally as strong as anyone, of any age, joining this tour. I think she may have even wrote something like this on the form when she filled it out…lol. I loved and admired her tenacity. I learned a lot from this client and she has remained a loyal client for many years since. Although the style of travel has changed, she continues to travel with her daughter almost every year. No matter where she goes, I will always remember booking her to Africa.

 

Story #2

I was putting away brochures one day when one caught my eye. It had a picture of a Blue Footed Booby Bird on the front. I turned to my co-worker and said “I want to see this bird”. She said they were only found in the Galapagos Islands. About a year later a VERY last minute fam opportunity came up to go to the Galapagos. I literally signed up without reading anything about the tour – all I knew is I was going to see that Booby Bird!!! We met our tour guide on the boat where we would spend 6 nights exploring these amazing islands. He started to go through what we would do and see each day. My heart started to sink a little when a good portion of EVERY day involved snorkeling. I love being on the water but in it is another story. I went through the motions of getting sized up for my wet suit and snorkel gear, knowing in the back of my head I may not be able to do this. There was another participant with similar fears. I tried to use that as a tool to bolster both our confidence. We would be a team supporting each other through our fears to a common goal. On our first full day all participants were ready to go. The guide instructed us on how to enter the water. Even though we were the last two, we got in. I cautiously put my head in and swam a couple feet. I looked up and “my teammate” was already back in the boat. I didn’t judge her for it, as I wanted to be back in the safety of the boat as much as her. I couldn’t though. I told myself “you didn’t come all this way to sit in that boat”….and I didn’t. Not only did I see Blue Footed Booby Birds I saw turtles, stingrays, penguins, iguanas, fish, seals and SHARKS!!! As well as so many other wildlife species. I conquered a fear to fully enjoy everything the Galapagos Islands had to offer and it was beyond incredible.

Kelly-Cavanagh

 

Story #3

Our local Roller Derby team, The Redneck Betties, had booked to go to Iceland in June. They were to play the local team in Iceland among some other international visitors. This was special to me and close to my heart because I had played with this team for several years. Of course they waited until I retired to go to Iceland, but hey, they still came to me for assistance. This was a unique opportunity for them as they celebrate 10 years in our community. Roller Derby is an amazing sport geared towards a wide range of ages, sizes, genders and athleticism. It is brutal, fun and empowering all rolled together. I love this team and am so proud to see them continue to grow. Unfortunately this trip and season 10 are delayed due to COVID-19. Not much gets this group down though. They have battled through good and bad and will come back stronger than ever – I know it because I have lived it. I can’t wait to rebook them to Iceland! Redneck Betties – BamaLAM!

Kelly-Cavanagh-2

 

 

Abe Korn from Travel Lines Express

This is just one of many inspirational trips we handle. The most recent was during the COVID-19 pandemic. I had a family that was trying to see their daughter who just had a baby in a foreign country. There were some complications with the delivery and the parents who lived in the United States wanted to see their daughter. It was an emergency. There were no commercial flights going into or out of this country. The parents both had passports but not the right visas. The parents were recommended to my services. I was able to get them into and out of this country with no hassles using a private charter service which flies under different regulations; for those who really understand the private charter business. The parents could not afford the price of a private charter but I was able to eventually get them on a charter flight for the price of an economy commercial flight, which is unheard of. The parents were extremely grateful and so was I for making their trip happen to see their daughter and granddaughter. The entire trip was hassle free and the parents still have no idea how we did it; especially them not having the right visas. A super happy, but mysterious trip for them indeed. For us, business as usual.

 

 

Scott Carlson from DiscoverMyPortland Walking Tours

Down the rabbit hole.

While on the Greek island of Crete a few years ago, and while exploring the medieval town of Rethimno early one evening, we stumbled upon a back alley that was covered under a canopy of trees, and that was home to an unbelievably picturesque restaurant. Because the Europeans dine very late in the evening, the street was still as empty as it was silent, and we were not sure that the restaurant was yet open for business. With no one in sight, and with nothing to lose, we gently pushed open the door. It was then that we found ourselves spiraling down the rabbit hole into what can only be described as a magical place.

This establishment filled a small courtyard with only ten or twelve tables. There were no others customers and no staff present. Ancient walls of the nearby buildings, some partially covered in ivy, made up three sides of the courtyard, and an eight-foot-tall brick wall with the wrought iron door that we had just entered through, made up the fourth. Looking around, we discovered a working seven hundred-year-old well, moss-covered slate under our feet, and very subdued and hidden lighting. But most impressive of all, were the two huge bougainvillea trees that completely covered the courtyard with a canopy of branches that were filled with brilliant pink flowers. The scene in front of us was so stunning that it felt like we had stepped INTO an impressionist painting.

While Judy and I were very much together in this magical place, my thoughts were my own and I felt at that moment that that life could not possibly get any better. But then it did. With Judy and I whispering quietly to each other, seemingly so as not to wake each other up from this dream, a very slight breeze came up and rustled the branches of the bougainvillea. Seconds later, as we sat in awe, scores of pink flower petals began to float down out of the trees, dropping onto the tables and onto the slate floor where they added just the precise amount of color needed to an otherwise perfect place.

Memories like this, ones that you can’t plan for and that will be remembered forever, are very few and very far between.

When they do happen, you must savor the magic.

 

 

Sylvia Ysidron from Sell Off vacations

First Story

The first story is about the amazing experience I helped create for a client. My daughter has a good friend named Jessica who wanted to book their first getaway trip with her boyfriend Jason. This was also their first time to Jamaica, making it more memorable. What Jessica did not know was that Jason planned to propose on their trip and needed my help, in secrecy of course. Using my professional advice and guidance as a travel agent, I guided Jason in the right directions. I first advised that although Jason was eager, he should not propose the first day as they will most likely be feeling jet lagged and cannot anticipate the weather, etc. Once they arrived to the Riu Palace Tropical Bay resort in Negril, I helped Jason book a sunset photo shoot on the beach as Negril is known for their sunsets, followed by a private, romantic, candle-lit, lobster dinner. With the photographer in the plan, it was during this photo shoot that the photographer had Jessica pose looking away into the sunset, preparing Jason to get down on his knee with the ring and propose. It was picture-perfect. They were both extremely thankful for my help but it was a pleasure for me to be a part of their milestone. Travel agents sure play a special role for clients and their experiences. Now I am not only their family travel agent, but my daughter is one of their bridesmaids and I received an invitation to their future wedding. I look forward to booking their honeymoon, next! The photo included captures their proposal.

 

Sylvia-Ysidron

 

Second Story

The second story is about a magical travel moment my daughter and I experienced at Sandos, Cancun. We were personally invited through an invitation left in our hotel room to participate in a ‘kitchen tour’. Provided garments to wear such as chef hats and aprons, we were given a personalized tour throughout the kitchen to meet some of the chefs and witness the operations of the kitchen including the prep and cooking, the stations, and sanitation processes. This was a magical travel moment because we got to experience a resort through a behind the scenes outlook, which was refreshing and unique, and will never forget it. The photo included is us with one of the hotel managers directing the kitchen tour and the hotel photographer. Furthermore, my daughter is shy but she has a thin frame, which is why the photographer approached her to take some photos around the resort they could advertise. The staff member involved with her was one of the hotel’s entertainers and together they posed on the beach for ‘candid couple’ shots. Sandos provided magical travel moments because of their customer service and unique experiences.

 

Sylvia-Ysidron-2

 

Third Story

The third story is about a magical travel moment my family experienced in Costa Rica. We booked a full-day excursion. It sounds thrilling, but it took a lot of courage to complete as we share a fear of heights. We were proud of accomplishing the tasks such as zip-lining and crossing a tight-rope bridge over a river because we got to experience the beautiful nature Costa Rica has to offer, such as their waterfalls and bathing in their active, hot springs. I fell in love with Costa Rica and its nature and could not stop raving about our magical moments. Soon after, I inspired many bookings to Costa Rica including my parents and many of our friends. Overcoming challenges provide rewarding, magical moments and Costa Rica proved that. The photo included is us bathing in the active, hot springs on a volcano hill.

 

Sylvia-Ysidron-3

 

 

 

Mike Sanderson from Flight Centre

One of my most memorable bookings that reminded me of why I love to do what I do started with a phone call in the early evening last April (2019)

The person on the other end of the line mentioned that they have been following my Facebook business page for awhile now and had seen my posts in a local community group and wanted my help to do something special for her parents. Without hesitation I said I was all ears. She began by telling me that she, along with her siblings wanted to surprise their parents with a trip back home to Germany. She went on to tell me that her mom and dad are the hardest working people she knows and that they have never been back to Germany since leaving over 40 years ago. They never take a day off work and they never travel and it was time they were shown the appreciation they deserve by taking this trip. Not knowing if any family remained back in Germany still did not deter them from making this decision as it had always been a dream for her parents to go back and visit. The plan was to book the flights and present them to her mom and dad on Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day came and they opened the gift to find documentation of their confirmed flights to Germany that October. There were lots of tears and hugs all around along with shock and disbelief that this was actually going to happen. The next day I received an email from the very happy parents excited to start planning this amazing dream adventure. They changed the return date to stay longer and turned it into a 16 day unforgettable experience. Throughout the entire planning process they were so appreciative of my efforts and together we planned an incredible itinerary for them making sure they got to visit places from their child hood along with historic venues that are must sees when you travel to Germany. Taking many forms of transportation was a must for them as they wanted to see the beautiful scenery their homeland had to offer. They really did planes, trains and automobiles as they made their way around the country.

I couldn’t wait to hear how the trip went and to send my “Welcome Home” email to this amazing couple. I received a response letting me know that my email was received and not to worry and that she would tell me all about the trip in a few days once things got back to normal. I was happy to hear that and sure enough a few days later I heard from them. They gave me a review of every hotel they stayed in a long with everything we had put on the itinerary. So detailed and filled with passion.

Since returning home she has been my biggest fan and supporter of my page that has over 2,000 followers. She shares every one of my posts and her son booked a family vacation to Mexico with me last winter. The amount of gratitude and appreciation I have for her can never be put into words and to have been able to play a small role in their journey was something I will never forget.

 

 

Cassandra Law from The Travel Agent Next Door

I had the typical North American childhood, with the odd trip to McDonalds, the highlight of my week. The beauty and lure of other cultures grossly escaped me, even with TV and geography class, I never truly absorbed the fact that other cultures existed. I didn’t have a passion that overtook me; not passionate about sports or blessed with the inner magic of music. Soon, I was faced with the ever daunting question, “What will I do with my life?”. In college, I was frustrated that everyone else seemed to have an intense passion that was lighting their way. Should I continue this journey? After much frustration with the increasingly growing expenses of school, and the ever turning wheel of monotony, I dropped out. Yes, I dropped out! I received good grades, I was a good student, BUT (yes, it is a big one) there was no reason to continue. Not soon after, I found myself in a new city (I fell in love, and moved with him to follow HIS dream – but that is a whole other story with too much passion for a travel story, so let’s gracefully move on). Luckily, I obtained an admin job at a travel agency (especially lucky since I am technically a college drop-out *shame*). The perfect entry, giving me a much needed kick in the derriere! Honestly, it felt like I should just choose a career and being a Travel Agent was as good as any. Soon I was booked on my first FAM trip. Wow! That trip changed my life! The ocean breeze filled the airport and my lungs, cleansing me of the stress of the big city. I inhaled deeply, breathing in with my full heart. As I entered the resorts, I thought of the typical “oasis” depicted in childhood cartoons. I fell in love! The food, beach, people (my lack of adjectives seems justified, as you are all reading this because you have same inner passion burning inside you). The week was truly a blur. I took a picture of every single thing, so I would never be able to forget. I excitedly greeted staff at each resort inspection and delighted every Sales Manager that met me. I was the ideal symbol of the future of the travel industry; spirited passion wrapped in a friendly young package, ready to share my new love with my deserving clients back home. The week ended with a stage show highlighting the culture and I felt my affection and knowledge grow deeper. Truthfully, I wasn’t sad to depart since I felt a cathartic change that I was taking with me forever (ok, maybe I also missed that guy I spoke about earlier). As I exhaled my last breath of ocean air, I knew that it wasn’t just the “vacation effect” that took my stress away; it was that I found my true passion. It still exists in me today, and I have felt this profound therapeutic change in other counties; the ultimate vacation souvenir.

I would like to take this time to apologize to my manager and co-workers at that time, for the most extensive FAM report ever written. I am sure you appreciated how I found a way to make every resort “perfect for the right client” and my extreme organization. I know now that the best FAM reports are factual references, and the vivid explanations and photos of my meals and drinks, was more than you needed (or wanted). However, I will never apologize for the section I included highlighting towel art. I stand by my opinion that this is, and always will be, a great unappreciated art medium.

 

 

Kimberly Bednarik from Tomorrow’s Adventures Travel Service

My husband and I took a river cruise on the Mekong. One of our stops was at a small village to visit with the Cambodian children, who were learning English in a one room school house. They would walk miles from other villages for the chance to learn English. A small group of 15 of us visited. My husband and I brought toothbrushes, toothpaste, crayons, paper, nail polish & t-shirts. Everywhere we travel in the world, we always bring M&M’s. Children and adults alike, love them.

The attached picture shows the children singing Louis Armsrong’s, “What a wonderful world.” There was not a dry eye in the group. Afterwards, we met the children and spoke with them so they could practice their English. It was a humbling experience.

 

 

 

Anita Magnoli from Soul Travel Escapes

Simply Cuba: Beaches and Beyond

In early December 2018, we were searching for a holiday to the Caribbean blue, a laid-back destination where we could wind-down, relax and get away from Winter’s early arrival. This trip was not about high-end luxury travel. We simply wanted to find a great beach, warm hospitality and salsa rhythms to enjoy our one-week stay. We decided to venture off to beautiful Cayo Santa Maria at the Iberostar Ensenachos. We didn’t have high expectations, but we were certain we would find relaxation and wellness by the ocean.

Once we arrived at the Santa Clara Airport, our adventure began with a 1 hour, 45 minute bus ride (110km) to Cayo Santa Maria, a very scenic, enjoyable ride with other travelers eagerly waiting for their stop to unload and get settled in. We found the roads to be in great condition, an easy ride with little or no motion sickness along the way. When we finally arrived, we were greeted with warm smiles, followed by a refreshing drink to toast to our evening. Within an hour, we could feel our body and mind relax as we walked around the clean, open-air lobby listening to live music. We could just feel the laid-back Cuban vibe, the easy breeze of the Caribbean air. Our initial experiences were harmonizing and cheerful.

This beachfront resort was quite spacious and large with 24 buildings of two floors and 506 rooms. We had many dining choices with 8 wonderful restaurants, and 6 bars. Even when everything appeared to be closed, we would always find ourselves visiting the snack bar for sandwiches and a few drinks after the evening show. Our accumulated stresses from back home were gradually loosening up and were replaced with energy, soul, and tropical bliss.

Every day, we would head to the fabulous beaches and soak up the sun. Here, the ocean felt endless, pure and natural. By later afternoon, we would enjoy a few workouts in the fitness center before heading back to our room to get ready for a new dining experience. As the days slowly drifted by, our trip got even better, but our time eventually came to an end. We didn’t want to leave. The staff here were simply wonderful, friendly, and engaging. It was our home away from home. I would recommend this resort to anyone looking for a great holiday, without comprising quality, comfort and selection. We are definitely looking to return in the near future. We hope you do too.

 

 

 

Culture Trip to Magnificent Egypt

MAGNIFICENT EGYPT. It was a long-awaited dream and one of the most anticipated adventures of my life. It’s been 10 years since I visited this destination, so full of wonder and excitement. When I reflect back on this remarkable journey, my senses come alive with the abundance of magnificent treasures: splendid temples & tombs, ancient pyramids, museums, the magical gift of the Nile, and the busy and colourful open-air bazaars in the heart of the city, all displaying their fragrant spices. Egypt can be defined as a modern, vibrant nation – charming and complex, ancient and new. I wanted to share my Egyptian adventure, in the hopes that my journey will inspire you to visit this incredible destination.

Tour of Cairo: I spent a few days in this huge sprawling, chaotic metropolis full of archeological sites & museums. We spent an afternoon taking a camel ride throughout the desert to the Grand Sphinx & The Great Pyramids. Afterwards, we ventured off to the Citadel, Coptic Cairo, and spent our evening at the busy and timeless Khan-al-Khalili bazaar. Our travels continued with a relaxing Felucca boat ride along the West Bank of the Nile.

Famous, Magnificent Temples: One of my favourite experiences during my time in Egypt was a day trip to Abu Simbel. Built in 1244 B.C., this site contains two temples carved into a mountainside during the reign of Pharaoh Ramessess II. Next to the Great Pyramids, Abu Simbel remains one of the top tourist attractions and boasts some excellent sightseeing!

A Visit to Luxor – The Tourist Mecca: Known as the “World’s Greatest Open Air Museum”. As I ventured off to this epic destination, I felt overwhelmed and excited. The town itself boasts “Luxor Temple”, while just to the north, we enjoyed an intriguing Sound and Light Show of “Karnak Temple” – a stupendous complex built over 1300 years. There is so much to see and do here, so give yourself plenty of time.

Reflection: Egypt, the Land of the Pharaohs continues to be a majestic and inspiring vacation destination. There are so many day trips and tours – the pyramids, vast temples, monuments and enriching culture. Egypt is a wonderful destination with such broad appeal – everyone from families, sun seekers, historians, dreamers, surfers, divers, and explorers can enjoy moments of wanderlust and adventure. I know I will always treasure my experience here.

 

 

Over the Moon in Mexico

In June 2018, I was selected to participate in a 1-week FAM trip to Cancun, Mexico at the Grand Moon Palace Resort. It was a unique opportunity, a chance to experience luxury at its finest. As a newer agent with only 4.5 years in the industry, I wasn’t too familiar with high-end holidays that offered so much to the client: Elegant, classy décor, abundant gourmet dining options, over-the-top amenities, including a fabulous waterpark, and one of the grandest, most opulent spa’s I have ever seen! I was truly over the moon – in “awe”- the moment I arrived at this stunning resort, until a week later when I departed for home. I felt like I needed a bit more time to explore all this resort had to offer, but I was grateful for this opportunity and a chance to network with my peers. As a home-based agent, these were the few times I could connect with others in such an idyllic, tropical setting, where fun & work seemed synonymous. It’s definitely one of the few perks to this job, but it comes hard-earned with so many independent efforts to build a successful & repeat travel business. I still have so much to learn & accomplish, now only scratching the surface.

During this week, we ventured off to all neighboring Palace Resorts, including a ferry ride over to lovely Isla Mujeres. As I decided to stay back and enjoy the white-sand beaches, other members couldn’t wait to visit the Island in their rickety little golf carts, full of amusement and joy. I decided to take it easy and enjoy the relaxing ocean views after sampling their tasty fish tacos, and fresh ceviche. I also had a few mixed cocktails to celebrate my return back to Mexico after 20 long years. It was that long – too long. Isla Mujeres was one of my favourite Island experiences throughout this trip. I felt a deep sense of gratitude for all this tropical bliss – swaying palm trees, fresh saltwater air, clear sunny skies, & plenty of vitamin sea.

When I reflect back on my time in Cancun, Mexico, it makes me appreciate my decision to start my own business – a place where I can craft my own vision & goals. In the next few years, I would like to surpass my own expectations. These educational FAM trips really enhanced my learning by gaining first-hand knowledge & insight in order to help my clients decide on a wonderful holiday experience that is just right for them. I would highly recommend Palace Resorts.

 

 

 

Randy Wegener from RCW Vacations

First Story

We have been cruising as a group with our church friends for a couple of years. We decided to break away from them and experience an all-inclusive resort. I thought our friends would love this experience as many of them enjoyed beaches, food, drinks and entertainment. None of them were interested. What! It took two years and a lot of comparison quotes of cruises vs. AI resorts for three couples to be interested. The three men were ready, but the women were concerned of the crime, sargassum and tainted alcohol. I had to do a lot of explaining. The husbands picked the higher end Secrets Akumal which was I was surprised.
I booked them direct with a package on Southwest. They asked when was the best time to book their airfare. I said, Done, it is part of the package. They said-Really! Big bonus #1 for me. I gave them a complimentary private transfer with food and beverages. Bonus # 2. So on the following Sunday of their return, they raved about the resort. Here are some excerpts the ‘head honcho’ provided me.

• Randy, I never thought the day would come that I would enjoy an “all inclusive” over a cruise! Our trip and travels were excellent. Thanks for the planning.
• Not having to travel a day early for fear of missing a cruise due to weather was great! We saved money by not having to pay for an extra night at a hotel, food, drink, transportation etc. Plus, not having to take an extra day off from work!
• The non-stop flight and being greeted immediately with a sign for our transportation was awesome.
• The room was great (4 times bigger than a cruse) with a nice balcony and good view of the resort and Ocean.
• Drinks were great, plentiful and very easy to get! Glasses of wine to “top shelf” whisky, never once did we have to wait in a long line!
• Wi-Fi was free and reception was excellent anywhere on the resort and we had total access to texting and phone service the whole week. (That would have cost plenty on a ship).
• We were very satisfied with all the restaurants; we tried them all except the French one (we ran out of days)! The Japanese Grill which became our favorite, we ate their twice. (It’s like having a dining package and eating at a specialty restaurant every night, if you were on a ship).
• Even though it is hard to top being on a massive cruise ship out in the middle of the ocean, this all inclusive is the most relaxing vacation I’ve ever had. No waiting in lines, no crowds, no planning your day around the ships schedule – the week was ours! This is now my vacation of choice. Having a great travel agent made the trip so stress free! THANKS RCW VACATIONS.

What a wonderful account from my friends on their first all-inclusive resort. You know what? This time the wives made the decision. We want to go back to Secrets Akumal! They said the weather and resort was better than the first time. So, hearing this from clients once but twice is the best part of this job.

 

 

Second Story

My first trip overseas as a travel agent was a return to Vietnam after 43 years. I traveled solo along with my guide and driver to many amazing places over two weeks. Many stand out, but this was my magical moment. Near the end of my tour I returned to Nha Trang on the South China Sea. This is where I was stationed in the US Army in 1971-72. My hotel was the Novotel on Tran Phu Street overlooking the beautiful beach. I drove my jeep from my barracks everyday to my work compound on this street. I was astonished the rebuilding of this country.

My guide always helped check me in at the hotel. This was not my normal check-in. The hotel clerk asked if I was returning to this hotel. I said no, but I am returning to this street in Nha Trang after 43 years. He was very kind and welcomed me back. The bellhop took my bag and rode with me up the elevator to my standard room. Half way up the phone rang in the elevator and we were instructed to return to the front desk. The hotel manager welcomed me to his hotel and said he had an upgrade for me and thanked me for my return to his country. The bellhop took me to the top floor and he opened the door to an executive suite ocean view room. I was flabbergasted. Tears came to my eyes thinking of the gracious offer this hotel and country gave me. I spent three nights in this beautiful city, sightseeing, shopping, eating, attending church and taking lots of pictures. I even visited places I remembered years ago. The Vietnamese people were so gracious, kind and forgiving. This is what I will always remember.

 

 

 

Roy Anderson from 7 Seas Cruise Co.

In April of 2003, I was in my second year of a partnership in a company that sold cruises exclusively. We recruited those who might want to get into the business, charged a fee and trained them for the cruise business. As part of that training, and to make sure anyone who wanted to be a specialist had at least been on a cruise, we booked them on a four (sometimes 5) day cruise. This particular class was totally unforgettable.

We sailed out of Miami for a short cruise to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. It was in Cozumel that we decided (for those who chose to) meet for a snack and drinks (paid by the company) at a well known Mexican Cantina with views right on the main drag. I believe it was Carlos and Charlies, but this was 17 years ago.

Once inside, we had several trainees, my wife, and one female partner, and myself. We were seated at a big long table, and we could hear loud music and noise coming from another room we could see into which was really rowdy and filled with young people. This is when we realized this was spring break. Now, we’re not prudes and enjoy young folks having fun. But we also had several trainees that were women, a few with their husbands, most not.

It seemed like just as we were standing up to leave, that room spilled out and the party was over (at this place at least). Now this place served a variety of drinks, and several brands of beer, which they had a list of on a round rubber stamp about four inches in diameter. As the young “ladies” came out of that room, many were pulling up their tops, and having a certain body part stamped with the round rubber stamp.

In a very calm voice, I asked if anyone in our group wanted a “stamp” and they all declined.. So, we all hustled out of there as quickly as we could get through the very crowded area by the door. Back on board ship at dinner time, we all were seated together, and not one person brought up the scene in the establishment we were in earlier. This was not only the most embarrassing moment of my career, but also the most memorable. I’ll certainly never forget it!

 

 

Cindy Collins from Woodstock Travel

Travel has been a very important motivator for me, through both bright and dark times in my life. I always have some kind of trip that I am planning- it’s what keeps me going. I love to research and when I decided to move from casually helping friends find deals to signing on with Woodstock Travel as an outside agent a few years ago, planning travel for others has brought me a great deal of joy. I get excited as clients’ departure dates approach and I love to build up the anticipation with them. I’ve had some very sad and disappointing cancellations/postponements lately and I can’t wait until we can start to look ahead to the next step.

I have many beautiful travel moments but one really stands out. Last winter, my teenage daughter became ill with a virus that turned into a chronic disorder. Months were spent in a great deal of pain and it was hard on her usually bubbly spirit. One night, when she was crying in pain and frustration, I blurted out that when she felt better, I would take her to the place she had dreamed about since she was little- Costa Rica. I hadn’t actually budgeted this trip but luckily I had some travel points; we also stayed in a hostel for a few days and I was able to take advantage of some great agent rates. A few months later we were on a plane- it was definitely a trip on a shoestring! It turned out to be my most memorable, heart-achingly meaningful trip. My favourite moment was finally getting to the bottom of many, many stairs at the La Fortuna waterfall and swimming in the natural pool at the bottom- health issues forgotten, we admired the waterfall mist making rainbows and spent a few hours soaking in the pure beauty (the stairs back up are another story). The top of the Arenal volcano was visible the few days we were there- locals told us several times how lucky we were as it is almost always shrouded in clouds. Lucky was exactly how I felt that whole trip.

For me and many of my clients, travel is like a form of therapy- it has a restorative power that can’t be underestimated. Our nomad clients who get it will be ready to go again soon and I can’t wait to plan some healing adventures.

 

 

 

Dana Schwieters from Dot Travel

Story 1:

Costa Rica Dream Adventures has been amazing to work with-their customer service is truly second to none! I have worked with Djibia on many Costa Rica trips, and she is wonderful. Not only is she knowledgeable, resourceful and very quick to get back to me-she provides outstanding customer service! Last spring, I had clients that were “stuck” in Costa Rica due to weather delays in MInnesota. I emailed Djibia to let her know that my clients flights had been cancelled for the next morning. I did not expect to hear back from her until the next day, but she personally called me at 11:00 pm- to assist me with a plan. Not only was she able to take care of the early morning transfer, but also secured a hotel room for the next night. She turned a situation that could have been extremely stressful for both myself( the agent) and the client into a seamless, stress fee situation. She continued to reassure me that she would take care of my clients for me, and she 100% went above and beyond. She has worked on many complex itineraries with me, and does an outstanding job! I will only book Costa Rica with her and have referred many other agents to her and Costa Rica Dream Adventures!

 

Story 2 (clients feedback on their trip): 

I just wanted to drop you a quick line and thank you for our amazing trip. We got back late last night due to the cancelled flight – tired but happy to be home. I also wanted to provide you with some feedback while its fresh in my mind – in case you are sending anyone back down there in the near future. Thank you again for all of your and Costa Rica Dreams help in assisting us with the changes that needed to be made due to our cancelling flights.

Costa Rica Dream Adventures was perfect. Gloria called and checked in with us on our way to the hotel to let us know how to get a hold of her in case anything came up. All transfers were prompt and the drivers were super friendly and really knowledgeable about Costa Rica. Our favorite drivers were Jose (who drove us several times) and Wilber who drove us on one of our longer transfers–from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio. They were simply the best! Super friendly – willing to teach us Spanish – and point out all the cool stuff along the way. They will be remembered fondly as we think back on our trip experience. I’ll make sure to email Gloria and let her know how happy we were with them!

Hotels & Experiences:
• Pachira Lodge – Torteguero. This hotel has been debated among us as the #1 spot of the trip. So beautiful. Grounds were spotless – animals everywhere – and it was nice knowing we had 3 meals a day that we didn’t have to think about. Our guide here was a guy name Marcos – and he was amazing. Couldn’t have had of a better way to start our trip!
• Arenal Springs. This is the other hotel that the family is debating about as #1. Our rooms were definitely the best on the property – close to the pools and eating areas – and the best view of the volcano. We traveled multiple times to La Fortuna – and loved each trip. We went the the La Fortuna falls one day – and would definitely recommend that 1/2 day trip for any future travelers. Cost was $18 per person to get into the falls area – but it was beautiful and you could swim in there. Just beware of the 500+ stairs to get down to the falls. Our guide for our volcano hike there was lead by another guy named Marco – and he was great too.
• Fonda Vela. The property itself was’t very impressive – spread out with rocky roads to traverse – but you could walk to some amazing views to watch the sunset and the staff were some of the best we encountered. The rooms were huge – 2 levels – which we thought was very cool. There were also a lot animals around – armadillos were the best! We traveled into town a few times for dinner – and found some great spots to eat. Canopy Tour and Zip-lining was definitely a highlight for all. Some of us were nervous to zipline- but we all conquered our fears and had a great time!
• Si Como No. Wow. Such an impressive view from our rooms and the pool. The staff here were all great and it was our only location with actual adjoining rooms which was nice. The staff here were all awesome as well – very attentive and friendly. We got the kids surf lessons from Daunte’s surf shop – and they LOVED it despite all of us getting a bit too much sun. 😉 We also explored the National Park – which was nice. Note here for others – they only take cash. It was nice to have some down time at the end of our trip to just read and relax.

All in all we couldn’t have been happier with our vacation. It was definitely a Dream Vacation for all of us! Thank you from our family, and a special thanks for assisting us when our travel plans had to change due to the snowstorm.

 

 

Sonia Kotzen from TravelOnly

My fascination with India began when I was around 14 years old. I saw a documentary on our black and white TV about the Taj Mahal. The amazing love story of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal captured my imagination. I began reading about the building of one of the most stunning mausoleums in the world. The intricate stone work of skilled artisans and the almost 20 years of dedication of the workers and how it almost bankrupt the state of Rajasthan.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Rajasthan, India. As we drove closer to Agra, my anticipation of being so close to my dream coming true was overwhelming.
Was I going to be as fascinated? Will this be a disappointment? Or will this dream I have held on to for so many years be everything I hoped for?
After submitting to a security check and walking through a dark corridor, the Taj Mahal appeared before my eyes in all its splendor. I stood at the top of the stairs leading down to the path that so many have walked before me. It took a few moments before I realized that the view was blurred. I had tears in my eyes without crying. I felt my heart pounding and my mouth was dry. Being at one of the worlds greatest treasures overwhelmed me. Reading about it, seeing pictures about this place didn’t do it justice.
All my senses were open. Going into the cavernous opening and there were the two tombs, one of the Shah Jahan and one held his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.
I was so grateful that I had the chance of just Being There.

 

 

Lalita Sanichara from AirTouch Travels

My group of 20 Seniors consisting of family members and close friends wanted to visit
Hawaii as it was their bucket list destination.

I planned a tentative itinerary for May 17, 2019 to depart from Toronto to Honolulu, spend
1 night in Honolulu and on May 18, 2019 to board the NCL Cruise ship, Pride of America,
for a 7 days cruise of the Hawaiian islands. When the cruise returned on May 25, 2019, we would spend 1 more night in Honolulu and return to Toronto on May 26, 2019.

Everyone read the itinerary  and were very excited. They immediately got together with their room mates and paid for their trip  after I agreed to be their tour guide.

The entire 10 days in Hawaii was awesome. The weather was beautiful, no delayed flights and everyone stayed healthy. I had arranged for their luggages to be included and seats to be assigned together on the flights.

Wheelchair requests were confirmed and gratuities for their cruise was prepaid.

Transfers were arranged where required and the entire trip went unbelievably well. It was amazing to be up at 5 am every morning to watch the Sunset and be the first ones to enjoy the Hot tub on deck. Meals and entertainment were wonderful on board ship, and on the Islands, as we experienced the Hawaiian Culture.

We used mini buses to travel around on all the islands. The highlight of the trip was on the Island of Kauaii, a visit to the Hindu Monastery, a rare temple carved in granite. The tour was amazing and everyone returned to the ship very happy and excited for another day in Hawaii.

At this time of Covid-19 crisis, they are able to reflect on the memories from their Hawaiian trip and are determined to stay safe and well. They are looking forward to travelling again when the crisis is over.

 

 

 

Nicole Deforest from Tripcentral

Westjet to the rescue

Long story short we had a very hard time growing our family after my son, BUT we were so fortunate to adopt our daughter from Alberta a few years later. On May 3rd my husband had a pipe explode on him at work causing severe burns to his hands from hot tar. We got the call on May 6th at 4 am that she had made her arrival 2 weeks early. We went to the airport with 3 suitcases, a stroller, 2 car seats, a toddler and only 1 set of hands as my husbands were wrapped in bandages. Kitchener is a smaller airport and when the Westjet agent saw me trying to push everything on my own he came to the rescue, and stayed with us until we got to our gate. The adoption went well and 2 weeks later we were flying back home with Mackenzie .Check in was much easier but boarding the plane was a whole new story. We had purchased a double stroller and of course while boarding it wouldn’t fold down, my hands were full with a baby, our toddler who was woken from a nap, and trying to get our boarding passes out was impossible. That’s when Heather greeted me with a warm smile, asked to take Mackenzie and assisted our family to our seats. She made sure we were comfortable and settled before taking off. Heather was amazing from start to finish she kept checking up on us the whole flight. She gave my son an ipad, unlimited snacks, disposing of diapers, I was trying to nurse (yes it’s possible with adoption) so had to pump, Mackenzie was sleeping and Heather once again to the rescue came and insisted she would wash it out so I could stay with Mackenzie. We ended up sharing our story with her and had a nice touching moment hearing she experienced similar difficulties growing her family. I put her in touch with our adoption agency and hope she has her happy ending now too. I had never flown with a newborn before and if it wasn’t for all the extra help we wouldn’t of gotten through it. I can’t thank the Westjet team, and especially Heather enough for making our first time travelling with 2 kids a breeze.

 

Nicole-Deforest

 

 

 

Bonnie Eccles from Moreno Travel

Exciting Iceland

I had the opportunity to visit Iceland last October and fell in love with this unique, northern country. Iceland is the new hot spot to visit and sure enough, there were people visiting from all over the world.

With only 330,000 people and only 130 kilometres from the Arctic circle, the Icelanders make this country work. Electricity is inexpensive as most houses are heated by geothermal energy. Fish processing is a key industry and also tourism.

Iceland is rated as having one of the world’s highest levels of economic freedom as well as civil liberties and in 2007 topped the list of nations ranked by the Human Development Index.

Reykjavik is a charming city with many bistros and cafes and a beautiful Lutheran Church that took over 40 years to complete. There are many gift shops with woollen goods and of course their famous Trolls.

Visits to Lake Myvtan, the Blue Lagoon and Gullfoss Waterfall are a must as well as the beautiful city of Akureyri. And seeing the Northern Lights dancing across the sky was a highlight.

 

Bonnie-Eccles

 

 

 

Marlys Lee from Mars Travel (Nexion)

First Story

I had a business contact me and they had an employee who had worked for them for about 30 years. This employee was retiring and the business wanted to do something special for them. I knew this employee personally and she had always talked about a trip to Alaska. I was able to put together a 4 day cruise and 7 day land experience for her and her husband. Another couple decided to join them. The business paid for the whole trip and chipped in $500 spending money for them. The weather was perfect the whole 11 days. They saw so much wildlife and Denali was out in her full glory for them. It was so much fun working with the business owners to make Marge & Glen’s dream trip happen!

 

Second Story

My friend, Susan, was retiring after 34 years of teaching elementary students. She decided that she wanted to take a cruise as a retirement gift to herself. Her husband refused to go. She really wanted to do a Caribbean cruise, however her sister said that she would only go if they did a Canada/New England cruise. Susan was disappointed, but decided to do it anyway. Then her sister’s husband decided to go. Since Susan couldn’t find a roommate, I told her that I would go with her even though I had done that cruise twice already. I told her how much I had enjoyed the cruise, not only for the cruise itself but for each port on that particular itinerary. She finally came around and got excited for the trip. We had the most wonderful time on the cruise and then spent 3 extra days in NYC. I had also been there, but it had been many years ago. It was fun watching Susan check off all of those things on her list that she had dreamed of doing and seeing. It was so much fun seeing things I had seen before, but through a newcomer’s eyes. It reminded me how much I enjoy making people’s dreams come true!

 

 

Bree Beaupre from Empire Travel

My client (and dear mother of mine!), 71 yrs old with COPD, hip issues and lost the love of her life (and world travel partner) 14 yrs ago, always wanted to fly amongst the treetops of Costa Rica to see the beautiful birds in their natural habitat. She wanted to feel the adrenaline she once had with my Dad when they would take helicopter rides over islands and whale watch from a chartered boat.
She expressed that she didn’t know if it was safe to travel as an elderly woman alone or as exciting to chase adventures without her adventure sidekick!

I suggested Costa Rica, Guanacaste area, as a convenient location with all-inclusive resorts and under 10 minutes to a fabulous zipline adventure and wildlife sanctuary.

She met so many friendly people and booked the suggested zipline tour through the insured, reputable tour desk in the resort.

This was just a couple months before Covid19 hit the Americas and she has expressed how truly grateful and blessed she is for experiencing her bucketlist dream trip as truly “Life is too short to wait for later…seize each day while we can!”

We always believed in and lived by this motto but now, more than ever, we must live our dreams.

Here are some photos of Carol living her dream and some moments of grandma love🥰

 

 

Dave Mazor from Pacific Sports Tour

I am writing today about a trip to Costa Rica that took place 26 years ago.

There is so much to tell that I am just going to
give you a quick summary of some of the unique experiences that my girlfriend Julie and I had!

Our daytime visit to a great bar in San Jose that we did not know until the next day was actually a famous legal brothel!

An early morning flight to Barra Del Colorado on a plane so small that my wife had to sit next to the Pilot!

The spectacular scenery flying low over the Jungle.

Our Panga ride on a beautiful river from the airport to our Jungle lodge with our non English speaking guide.

Being the only guests at our Jungle Lodge.

A jungle tour from our lodge including the scary loud screeching noises that turned out to be coming from a tiny Howler monkey.

Our river trip to the Nicaraguan border which was guarded by a teenager with a machine gun.

Poling our boat through the jungle to a spectacular fresh water lagoon that was also just a short work to a

completely deserted coastline.

Attending a birthday party at the Jungle lodge for the owners daughter including fresh Langostino that our guide stopped to purchase on the way home from our jungle tour.

My failed proposal attempt at sunset on the river due to a fierce mosquito attack.

The two police men that we asked for directions simultaneously pointing in the opposite direction.

Once again being the only guests at a hotel looking over Lake Arenal.

After having drinks with the hotel owner at his bar we unscrewed all of the light bulbs in the hallway outside of our room to spend hours watching the most incredible lightning storm over lake Arenal.

How do I remember that this trip took place in May 26 years ago…….. because on May 16, 1994 sitting on a lounge chair on the shore of the Playa Tambor resort, at the lowest tide I have ever seen, watching the feral cats chase crabs while sipping champagne I proposed to Julie and she said yes!

 

 

Alison Wotherspoon from TravelOnly

One of my own favourite personal moments was from our stay at Sandos Finisterra 2015. We met the most amazing people within our first day there at the White Party. We were all sat together and from then we all spent the rest of the week together at the pool, having dinners together. 10 of us having the best time. We all still keep in touch and some of us even still go on vacation together. Life long friends made by chance on vacation.

 

 

Ria Lishman from Myles Travel Plus

I have been privileged to travel extensively in my 40 year career, but the trip that had the most impact was a visit to France for D-Day celebrations. The agency I worked for at that time specialized (and still does) in tours for veterans. This tour was a big one- the 60th anniversary of D-Day and I was assisting as an escort/tour guide. My group of 40 or so was comprised of WW2 veterans and their families. One of those vets was Ernst Smith or Smokey, the only Victoria Cross holder (at that time) in Canada. Earl Grummet who on landed on Juno Beach as a member of the 12th Field Regiment and Clarence Sutherland who displayed his two Distinguished Flying Cross medals were part of my group. We attended a ceremony at Juno Beach, along with Queen Elizabeth and other dignitaries. Many of the men who landed on Juno Beach on June 6th, 1944 had never returned for a visit till this trip. They stood on the beach, tears streaming down their faces as the memories of that day came flooding back. We saw Vimy Ridge but it is the cemetery at Beny-sur-Mer where 2,048 Canadians are buried that struck home. The cemetery is located near Courseilles-sur-Mer, in a beautiful setting surrounded by trees. So peaceful now. Not then. Hearing bagpipes play the Last Post always brings my emotions to the fore along with the solemn recitation of these words by Lawrence Binyon: “They shall not grow old as we that are left to grow. Old age shall not weary them nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and waking up of the morning, we will remember them.” While walking between the rows of graves at Beny-sur-Mer, listening to birds singing their happy songs and reading the head stones, the magnitude of their sacrifice hits home. Young men, sons, brothers, fathers. Gone. As I walked, I met up with one of my veterans. He pointed to the first row of graves. He had been a paratrooper that day and once safely on the ground had dug that first row of graves. I’ll never forget.

 

 

 

Julie Kulessa from Cocktails in Paradise Travel

Love Wins with the Power of Paradise!

Several years ago I had a couple whom I had never met come to my office, sit down and actually explained to me that they were about to file for divorce. Now I am a travel agent, not a marriage counselor…so I was a bit confused at where they were heading with this. They proceeded to explain that, though they had always dreamed about it, they had never been on a vacation in their 25 years of marriage…not a honeymoon, nothing. They simply could never afford it. But before they called it quits for good, they wanted to fulfill that dream together to perhaps make one last good memory before they parted. One of them had a 401k from work that they were now able to cash in on to make it finally work. I could tell that they were obviously still friends but definitely no longer in love. They honestly had no intention of a reconciliation, simply a “last hurrah”. I respected their honesty and gladly booked them a trip of a lifetime to Jamaica.
Well sure enough, on that beautiful beach in Jamaica, they fell in love with each other again! When they returned and told me this, I half expected it…as I know all too well the “power of paradise”. The problem at that point was that they vowed to somehow return as often as possible to that special spot in paradise that rekindled their long forgotten flame. But they did not know how it would happen as they were still in the same financial situation they had always been. I then promised them I would help to make it happen. I have always believed where there is a will, there is a way. So they figured out together some little things they each could go without each week to save and make it happen. So since then each year in January we sit down and plan their trip for November. Starting with a reduced deposit to make budgeting easier and then each Friday they contact me to run a payment on their trip. It is always a different amount each week all based on the little things they chose to sacrifice for their time together in paradise…to keep the love alive!
They are returning to Jamaica in November for the fourth year in a row and they have a new lease on life and their love for each other.

 

Julie Kulessa

 

 

Linda Landry from The Travel Store

In my 30 plus years of being a travel agent, I have had the opportunity to plan and make so many family trips for my clients and myself a reality.
I feel we are a very blessed group of individuals with amazing careers, we literally make dreams and wishes come true.
I have always felt that travel is a great form of education. Which is why my husband and I felt it important to travel with our children.
In 2014, when our children were 21, 18 and 14 years of age, we knew we did not have many years left for family holidays.
We decided to do our biggest trip of all, which was a European holiday.
We let each of the kids pick the country and do the research on what there was to do in the country they choose to visit. The winners were Paris, Munich and Dublin, but I also felt they needed to see London. Our oldest is a history buff so he chose Munich, we even got on a visit to the Dachau concentration camp, that memory will live with me forever. Our middle guy had seen pictures of Ireland and wanted to visit Dublin, our youngest of course wanted to see the city of lights and love Paris, we even took a day trip to Disneyland Paris.
This was our best family trip and in my opinion, the best education they could have received. These last two months as I reflect on our fantastic industry and the memories we create for our clients and ourselves I am so forever grateful we chose to invest in our children’s knowledge and experiences by traveling with them.
We will travel again!!!

 

 

 

Elizabeth Hoover from Travelink

In early February 2020, I had coordinated and arranged a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Dubai & the Maldives.

We arrived into Dubai first, staying at the Four Seasons Jumeirah Beach Resort, a spectacular property sitting directly on the beach and outside the downtown area.  When traveling, I always find it best to participate in at least one local tour, whether cultural or experiential it can at least give you insight into the destination. I thought it would be fun to book a desert.  The desert safari was a mess but it is one of those travel situations that you must either choose to laugh or to cry and we were laughing the entire time. This is one of those memories that you look back on and laugh and thank all that is holy that you made it back to the resort alive!  Dubai, thanks for the memories but on to the Maldives.

Once our time in Dubai ended, the Conrad Rangali Island in the Maldives was next.  On the island, they have the option to have lunch, dinner, or afternoon tea at the world’s first undersea restaurant, ITHAA. When researching out trip, I kept debating back and forth if we should splurge for this experience as afternoon tea was $200+ per person, and this was a definite splurge.  My husband reassured me that if this was something I’d only ever get to experience and could experience in the Maldives, we should do it while we had the change.  Living with no regrets is something many of us can neither afford or cope with sometimes and now, more than ever, I’m so grateful that we took advantage of the situation and splurged.

My advice will always be to take the trip, take the chances, take the tours, take the time, and take the opportunity, because doing all of these things will allow you to GIVE so much more.  Travel is a passion and it is a gift to be able to do so; do it while you can!

 

 

 

Dawn Milburn from Trent Travel

A few short months of becoming an Independent Travel Consultant, I was approached by a client and dear friend to help plan a trip to Aruba for her and her husband, both in their 30’s. This wasn’t any ordinary vacation to plan. Her husband has Muscular Dystrophy, and as most are aware, there are many variables to consider when planning a vacation of this magnitude.

This was a huge learning curve for me – not only was I beginning to learn the ropes of the travel industry, I was also learning how to plan a vacation for someone with mobility issues.

Their 10-day vacation went smoothly until they found out that the return shuttle to the airport was going to be on a Coach. We had clearly reserved a van for transportation as her husband could not climb the stairs of a large bus. I received an email from my client wondering if I could assist in getting their transportation sorted. I happily did this, from the hospital room of my father-in-law, who was in palliative care at the time.

The couple returned home, having had a wonderful vacation. Less than a year later, she was diagnosed with cancer. She is very strong-willed and has a positive outlook on life. In fact, she recently shared a Facebook memory of their trip to Aruba, with a comment that when her health issues and COVID-19 are over, she knows where she will be going.

I am grateful that I was able to help create these amazing travel memories for two deserving people. It’s stories like this that help me continue on my journey in the travel industry during these unprecedented times. I wish nothing but the best for my client and a speedy recovery so she can once again experience the beauty of Aruba.

 

 

Suzy Davis for Adventures For Solo Travelers

Cry of the Kalahari

Once upon a time in 2018, deep in the bush of the Kalahari, I lead a small group on a lux ‘ Fly-In Safari ‘  through Botswana, a country that boasts the world’s highest concentration of elephants at 134,000 strong. From Maun to Moremi and lush Okavango, we saw an eyeful of spectacular wildlife that exceeded our wildest expectations.     We flew in 6  seater Cessna’s over plains teeming with animals until we landed deep in Kalahari Game Reserve on a dirt runway.  We piled out with wheeled bags in tow through tall grasses for a short walk to Grasslands Bushmans Lodge. Suddenly out of nowhere, a giant bull elephant with huge tuskers charged us trumpeting ‘You’re trespassing.‘   Our guide then yelled, “ Drop your bags and run fast now ! “. I peed my safari pants but was warmly welcomed with champagne by the staff.

We loved our raised platform tents with footed bathtubs. Each night, prides of lions roared so loud, it was surreal, as loud as jet engines in surround sound. Our days were spent on game drives and the nights on walking safaris with the San Bushmen tribe.    Late one night tucked in our cozy beds, my roomie Linda whispers ‘Suzy I felt something touch my face ‘. I respond  ‘ it’s just a bug. Go to sleep. Again she says ‘this is no critter’. Minutes later I hear ‘ Suzy, it’s big, I’m scared, it won’t go away’ and I assure her it’s nothing.  10 minutes later, Linda screams! I stumble out of bed to turn on my flashlight. And there it was in full glory, the most beautiful sight my eyes have beheld. An elephant trunk had reached through the canvas zip window. The gentle Ellie was stroking Linda’s face.   Pure silence. No photo – like a fantastical apparition. Touching, smelling, connecting over 5 minutes of eternity until he quietly disappeared. 

Later at 2 am, our tent swayed and beds shook. Surely I surmised, this is an earthquake! Together we huddled on the floor trembling in an embrace. An hour later it stopped. In trepidation, I tiptoed outside to witness total destruction. Every tree and bush was uprooted or crushed.    I ran to the lodge in my pj’s searching security. Ranger Joseph laughed saying “ Wasn’t it beautiful Suzy! A huge herd of elephants paraded over our non-fenced grounds foraging for food.  We always rebuild here as nature must have her way. “

I returned home stunned by joy.   Africa always stirs something profoundly deep in us. A place like no other on earth, Africa changes us from mere tourists into true travelers. Africa always makes us Storytellers!

 

Suzy-Davis

 

 

Shabi Mohamed from Newwest Travel & Cruises

In 2017, I had the opportunity to travel on a FAM trip to Barcelo Maya Beach in the Riviera Maya. I fell in love with the resort and recommended the resort to a group. The family had reached out to me as they found my name through some of my social media posts in planning wedding destinations but also reviews and testimonials from happy clients! They told me that this wedding was very special to them as they had a Senior in the family also celebrating their 80th birthday and she was also going to be travelling to the wedding. Little did I know that the Senior had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and since this information was confidential, I found out about this after the trip. The wedding was very challenging as I working with guests travelling from England and Africa. After all the flights had been booked and the Group was confirmed at the resort with all the rooms being capped, I received a call from the Bride’s mom panicking that 5 members of the family had now decided to come and that I needed to make this happen. They were also travelling from England and Africa. I became really stressed about this as I honestly did not know if the resort would open the Group bookings to 2 more Suites for both families. I reached out to the resort several times for weeks to see if we could add the extra family members to the Group. After several weeks, I was able to make this happen, the group traveled to the Riviera Maya in August of 2019 and they sent me pictures of the group enjoying a Welcome Cocktail Dinner that I had organized and I had tears because the Senior was sitting on the beach sipping a coconut and the whole family was standing around her. It made me realise that when you believe in something, you work hard and put your passion and your heart into it – you can make dreams come true for your clients. Here are the testimonials from my Happy Clients all over the World from this Group Destination Wedding!

 

Hi Shabi,
Just wanted to thank you for all your help and support in making our trip to Barcelo such a success. I am sure the whole group shares this sentiment. Thanks so much for all the help in organising and making Mexico so magical.
Parents of the Bride, Vancouver Canada

Hi Shabi,
Thank you for organizing a wonderful and most memorable trip for our family. Special thanks for organising 3 days for my daughter from England. The resort was of high standard and food service was excellent and also big thank you for facilitating the all group at 3 best restaurant. The trip was one of our best vacations . Once again a big thank you for organising trip on behalf of all our families.
Family from London England